Creative arts, changing lives

A service involving around a hundred young people and organisations across the county of Oxfordshire takes place at the Cathedral next week. This year the St Frideswide Civic Service – an annual event that marks Oxfordshire Day (19 October, the Feast of St Frideswide) – has the theme ‘Creative Arts, Changing Lives’.

This service, which is organised by the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire in partnership with the Cathedral, celebrates the work of charities and organisations around the county who make a real difference to people’s lives through art, dance and music.

As always, students from local schools as well as other arts organisations are contributing to the service. Illustrations for the order of service have been provided by pupils from East Oxford Primary School, and poems composed by students from Oxford Academy and the Europa School.

Those taking part in the service include the Buddy Choir, which is made up of children with special needs and disabilities in partnership with abled peers, who will sing under the Wolsey Tower before the service; Gosford Hill School Band, who will play before and after the service; the Buddy Trombone Ensemble, Frideswide Voices of Christ Church (the Cathedral’s girls’ choir) and the Café Inspire Bell-ringers.

There will also be a specially choreographed performance by the Anjali Dance Group, a professional-level company of learning-disabled dancers based in Banbury.

During the service, the Dean of Christ Church will interview the founders of two organisations involved in ground-breaking work to support disadvantaged young people, John Lubbock (Orchestra of St John's: Music for Autism) and Juli Beattie (AT the Bus). Imam Monawar Hussein, Founder of the interfaith Oxford Foundation, will read a poem by Rumi. The climax of the service will be an act of pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Frideswide.

The Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, said: “Frideswide is the patron saint of our cathedral, the city and the University of Oxford, and we are, as always, delighted to be hosting this celebration of our community life – drawing in many schools, organisations, charities and other groups from across the city and wider county. The Dean and Chapter look forward to welcoming everyone to this remarkable festival.

"The cathedral service highlights the vital role that many of our organisations play, as well as providing a wonderful showcase for the talent of Oxfordshire’s young people. Our service captures the spirit of hope and healing that St Frideswide herself represents.”

The Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Tim Stevens, said: “Our annual St Frideswide service is always a special celebration of an aspect of life in our county. Its theme this year, covering the many ways in which the Arts enrich our communities and the lives especially of disadvantaged people, promises to be particularly important. Bringing together young, old, abled and disabled and with contributions from young people from all over Oxfordshire it will be a fitting remembrance of the Cathedral’s patron saint, St Frideswide.”

Before the service, a short video will be played to showcase the contribution of the various charities being celebrated at the service. Please note the video has no sound.

AT The Bus

After founding and running The Art Room for 15 years, Juli Beattie, together with a team of professionals, developed the concept of a mobile art as therapy provision. AT The Bus provides a school-based programme of art as therapy to support the mental wellbeing of children and young people aged 5–16 in Oxfordshire. Group sessions take place during the school day in a purposely designed therapeutic studio space in a double decker bus located on school grounds.

Children Heard and Seen

Children Heard and Seen is a charity which provides support and interventions for children experiencing parental imprisonment. The charity was set up in 2014, with a focus on reducing intergenerational offending and mitigating the impact of parental imprisonment for children in Oxfordshire. In 2019 they won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This is the highest award given to volunteer groups across the UK to recognise the exceptional service within their communities

Orchestra of St John’s (OSJ): Music for Autism)

OSJ’s ethos is a commitment to increasing individual and community wellbeing through arts participation, community projects and music for autism events in special schools. In March 2019 they invited 30 girls from Afghan Women’s Orchestra for a week’s residency in Oxford and London. Rehearsals, masterclasses & side-by-side concerts with musicians from OSJ, Oxfordshire County Music Service, and Harrow Young Musicians. They sold out the Sheldonian Theatre, British Museum theatre and Harrow Arts Centre. The FCO also sponsored a concert at Lancaster House. They continue their support by distance learning via lessons on Skype.

Anjali Dance Company

Anjali is a professional-level company of learning-disabled dancers which began in Banbury 25 years ago. Anjali’s dancers create and tour original productions in the UK and abroad. They have represented the UK at major international festivals and are noted as inspirational role models for people with learning disabilities. The company also has a youth group, Young Anjali, and a weekly Open Class, whose members are performing in today’s service.

The Old Fire Station

The Old Fire Station is a public arts centre – presenting new work across art forms, supporting artists and including people facing tough times. They have a Theatre, Gallery, Shop, Studios and Café and we share our building with the homelessness charity, Crisis. They try to include people who are homeless in everything we do. This improves the quality of what we do, helps break down barriers, builds resilience and leads to more stable lives.


Disabled people don’t have the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers to engage in activities that will help them attain the life-skills they need in making the transition into adulthood. This means they miss essential experiences their nondisabled peers take for granted. Thomley delivers activities and opportunities for people of all ages and impairments. By doing this they contribute toward supporting disabled people in building the foundations they need to negotiate their everyday lives.


Ark-T is an arts centre based in Cowley, where People, Art and Powerful Ideas come together. They use the powers of Creativity and Human Connection to change lives. Their projects work to address the inequality around us in some of the most deprived wards in one of the richest cities in the UK. They are keen to work in partnership with others who are also passionate about addressing this inequality.

Oxfordshire County Music Service (OCMS)

OCMS’s work includes instrumental and vocal teaching for over eight thousand children each week. It also provides a full programme of daytime, evening and weekend activities, community projects with partners and high-level ensembles with concerts all around Oxfordshire and in national venues. Last year OCMS developed its Buddy Ensembles which partner mainstream secondary school children with children with special needs and disabilities. You will see examples of this work today.

Frideswide Voices of Christ Church

Frideswide Voices was the first Anglican choir created specifically for girls of chorister age in Oxford, and was originally formed in October 2014. While they have always had significant links with Christ Church, they became part of the Foundation in September 2019. The girls are drawn from more than 25 different schools across the city and county. They sing Evensong in the Cathedral on most Wednesdays during term-time, as well as singing other services throughout the year.